Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Simon vs. the Homo Sapien's Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapien's Agenda
Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray, 2015  320 pgs.
Grades 9-Up
Realistic Fiction

Our story starts with blackmail. Simon accidentally leaves a computer logged into his e-mail where a friend-emy named Martin reads it. Simon is secretly gay and is conducting an on-line friendship with someone named "Blue", who's identity in unknown, but is a fellow student at Simon's school. Simon is not ready to reveal his sexual orientation or expose his developing relationship with Blue to the general public. What Martin wants in exchange for his discretion is to get to know Simon's friend Abby better. Meanwhile, Abby is interested in Simon's guitar playing best friend Nick, as is Simon's other best friend Leah. Sound confusing? Its all part of high school life as Simon and his friends work out their romantic relationships and friendships all under the backdrop of the high school musical. Simon is not the only one with secrets. Both friends and family reveal private parts of their own lives and Simon realizes that life's not just all about him; a valuable lesson for all teenagers. Eventually Simon is "outed" and not on his own terms. After an initial bullying attempt by some homophobic school jocks, the dust settles and Simon is excepted for who is truly is. The identity of Blue is satisfactorily revealed and Simon's story ends with a happily-ever-after, sure to please most teens.

Albertalli offers a light and breezy romance featuring believable, funny, likable, and flawed main characters. The whole cast is well developed and interesting and diverse enough for most teens to find someone to relate to. Simon, out star, is highly likable and will have readers cheering for him and hoping that Blue, the boy he has fallen in love with on-line, is a real person. I was nervous that this plot thread would turn ugly, but Albertalli gives Simon a happy, if a bit unrealistic, ending. Blue, who is extremely private and careful, does a 360. He turns out to be a real person (a character we already sort of know) and becomes Simon's boyfriend publicly and without inhibitions. I don't know that real life runs quite so smoothly, but I can't help but be happy for Simon and will chose to let go of my adult cynicism. I love that Simon is part of a flawed, yet functional family and both his sisters and his parents play staring roles in the story and matter to him. Alberalli infuses a lot of humor into the story, making some awkward and difficult moments less intense. The book reads quickly and is hard to put down. The mysterious identity of Blue will help readers to turn pages and then, once he is revealed, to find out what will happen with the romance. There are a lot of players in this drama, but Albertalli writes everyone so distinctly that they are not hard to tell apart. A fun book covering some serious topics, it is a worth while read for teens of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

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